The Anglican wing of the church, especially in the West, has gone through a troubled couple of decades. Numbers have fallen steadily and sharply, controversy over attitudes to homosexual practice rage on, and often enough it has seemed that politics and social services have become the reason for being. If the English Anglican church was once characterised, no doubt unfairly, as “the Tory party at prayer”, sometimes the New Zealand wing has come to seem like “the Green Party at prayer”. One year recently the Wellington diocese listed tree-planting as one of its mission priorities for the coming year.
Justin Welby, the relatively new Archbishop of Canterbury, has offered a few glimmers of hope – including as a leader who can talk clearly and authoritatively of the faith. Many seemed wowed by his earlier years in corporate finance; perhaps there is a sense that it secures him some legitimacy among the professional classes that he might not have had if he had been an ordinand at 21. But what matters now is the lead he provides today.
A couple of weeks ago, Welby delivered the first Lambeth lecture, described as inaugurating “a new series of talks which will feature guest speakers addressing key issues for the Church”. It is a wonderful, simple, and yet profound talk. It begins with the simple proposition that the church exists to worship God, as revealed in Jesus, and to make new disciples of Christ, and ends observing simply that “the best decision anyone can ever make is to be a follower of Jesus Christ”. The rest is full of thoughtful and challenging material.
I came away from Welby’s lecture profoundly encouraged and with a sense that this is someone whose lead I could follow.
I encourage people to read the whole thing. And I look forward to future lectures in the series.